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Direction for Canon EF-M after 2021?

Today I’m talking about a possible direction for the Canon EF-M system. While I had the original EOS M camera, I eventually sold that and didn’t get back into EF-M until the Canon EOS M50. Let’s start with more context first.

Update 10/2021: Since this article I’ve picked up a used M6 Mark II, which has changed my perspective a bit. It’s generally a pretty impressive camera but I’d always like to see more. I use it a lot in combination with an Atomos Ninja V recorder to get past the 30 minute time limit per video clip. I have a video going over most of the important points I brought up in this article if you prefer video.

Before the M50, I experimented with the Canon Rebel SL2 Digital SLR because I was trying to improve my online video work in quality as well as making videos easier to produce. The fully articulating screen and decent microphone pre-amp in combination with DPAF helped me a lot.

From there I sold everything and went to a pair of Canon EOS M50 cameras in an attempt to have one toolset to rule them all for both photography and videography. Mirrorless looked like it made the most sense for video. Photography has been good enough with most cameras these days so I didn’t consider it as much. At the time my main cameras were Nikon full-frame DSLRs.

Technically it worked. The M50 does a decent job in photography and videography, but ergonomically it’s limited. After that I tried to make a used Canon EOS M5 my primary photography camera for a while. It has advantages like more physical controls compared to the M50, but also disadvantages in autofocus due to being an older camera. It’s definitely a nice camera, but I wanted more. 

I picked up a Nikon Z5 somewhat recently to get a physically larger and more featured photography tool. Something with a larger and higher resolution viewfinder was especially important. With EF-M I renewed my interest in adapting old film era lenses. The Z5 does that better and more naturally with its full-frame sensor. The Canon EOS M6 Mark II can use an optional EVF, but it’s no different than the viewfinder in the Canon EOS M50. I have the Viltrox speed booster, but adapting from EF on that adapter to something like M42 is quirky. I have tried the Canon EOS RP. It’s a pretty nice camera, but the viewfinder isn’t a huge step up from the M50. When I got the Z5 it was the same price as the RP. Definitely a better value at the time. I love those dual card slots and nice EVF on the Z5.

The M50 is still the backbone of my YouTube channel (Edit: This has changed with the M6 Mark II plus Atomos Ninja V which I use for hands-on videos, talking to the camera, and most indoor b-roll unless the M6ii is being featured in a video). I use it for indoor recording and occasionally outdoors. I use it for thumbnail photos. Though I have shifted my tools somewhat for the outdoor vlog style photography videos. I’ve been using the GoPro Hero 9 and DJI Osmo Action due to their stabilization, wide view, and decent 4k/2.7k recordings because I can crop-in when I export at 1080p. 

Does the EF-M system still have a place in the market? Where could it be taken to stay relevant? For a long time the M50 has been one of the most popular mirrorless cameras. A quick reference for that would be Amazon’s popular camera listing. Even as I write this article in June 2021, the black version of the M50 is #3 and the white version is #11. The M50 came out in March 2018…

The M50 has limitations compared to newer cameras like the Sony A6100, especially in 4k video, but it ticked a lot of boxes for people when it was released and even still is a solid option for 1080p video and photography. The camera is pretty simple and functional at a decent price. The Canon EOS M50 Mark II was officially released in November 2020. It’s a better camera, but is effectively a firmware upgrade (unless there are internal changes to help facilitate new features like clean HDMI, but the only way to know would be to open one up…). 

So far Canon has kept APS-C cameras out of the RF mount. Rumor sites have speculated at APS-C coming to the RF mount, but it hasn’t happened (yet).

At this point there hasn’t been a new piece of EF-M equipment since the Canon EOS M50 Mark II. The last official EF-M lens released was the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 back in September 2018. 

These official Canon lenses are available to buy new at the moment: 

22mm f/2, 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3, 28mm f/3.5 macro, 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3, 11-22mm f/4-5.6, 32mm f/1.4, and 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3. The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is no longer available.

3rd party manufacturers are now offering a selection of autofocus native EF-M lenses. Viltrox has the 23mm, 33mm, and 56mm f/1.4. Sigma has the 16mm, 30mm, and 56mm f/1.4. Tamron is still offering their 18-200mm. 

There are gaps in lens coverage, but it’s not that bad now! A good selection of fast f/1.4 primes. A lot of these lenses are also very nice in video with quiet and fast autofocus.

Let’s speculate about the direction of Canon with EF, EF-S, EF-M, and RF.

EF and EF-S are in maintenance mode. I don’t expect much further development here. Though EF definitely still has a market in the DSLR, mirrorless, and cinema market. It’s probably the most adapted lens mount out there with autofocus and electronic aperture control. I have a cheap EF to Z adapter that isn’t terrible.

Let’s go over the positives and negatives of each possibility for the EF-M system. Of course, this is all speculation and guess work. I have no insider information.

EF-M is completely abandoned positives:

  • Consolidate everything into RF. One mount to rule them all. 
  • Potential cost savings from a development and production standpoint. 
  • One less camera mount for consumers to be confused by. 

EF-M is completely abandoned negatives:

  • Alienate and confuse existing EF-M customers. Potentially losing business from a sizable percent of existing EF-M customers. I personally would not be too happy if they completely abandon EF-M. RF doesn’t currently fit my needs and my EF-M glass won’t work on RF so it’s a wash there.
  • Potentially confuse beginners by mixing sensor formats in one mount. While advanced users get it, I have seen beginners not understand crop factor. The opposite could be true for other customers that buy into EF-M but end up wanting RF eventually. Which one is worse?
  • The EF-M equipment market dries up. Take a look at the Nikon 1 system forums. It isn’t pretty right now due to a common aperture gear failing on many lenses for that system. That specific issue is fixable with an improved metal gear available from 3rd parties, but other spare parts like ribbon cables are getting harder for those users to access. 

EF-M stays in minimal support mode positives:

  • The format will persist so it will be easy to buy new equipment and have equipment repaired.
  • The slow release schedule probably works pretty well with average consumers. I don’t imagine they upgrade their camera or buy new lenses that often. Maybe this ultimately is why Canon hasn’t put much into EF-M.
  • Users wanting more eventually transition to RF because they like how Canon equipment works, which is probably what Canon wants. Canon would benefit from the purchase of RF glass because EF-M won’t work at all.

EF-M stays in minimal support mode negatives:

  • Enthusiasts in the system won’t have a large amount of options available. 
  • Technologies in EF-M will lag compared to RF. We see this right now with features like IBIS and Canon’s best effort at autofocus only in the R5 and R6, though the M6 Mark II is said to still be very good in autofocus (I haven’t used one).
  • Users wanting more eventually transition to or buy into other systems if RF doesn’t appeal to them (literally me two months ago but it was more about cost and features on the low-end. I probably would have bought an R6 if money wasn’t a big consideration).

EF-M revitalized or re-envisioned positives:

  • Gives existing and new users to the system more tools in their toolset.
  • Introduce or further support different use cases that EF-M can excel at. Think along the lines of hybrid use or more video focused users. I’ll get back to that point later on.

EF-M revitalized or re-envisioned negatives:

  • Taking development and manufacturing resources away from RF.
  • If it doesn’t pay off then Canon loses money and market share.

Assuming a best case scenario, where should the EF-M system exist in the market? 

The obvious primary market are beginners and people interested in a step above their smartphone. Canon already caters to that market with the M100 and now M200 as well as the M50 and new M50 Mark II. These people likely want a simple compact camera with nice quality output. Basically cameras that can do photography, video, and handle tasks like being used as a webcam well without much setup difficulty. Now that Canon offers USB based webcam functionality, their EF-M cameras have gotten more generally appealing. Though, I have to say how sad it is that it took a global pandemic to force the hand of camera companies on that feature…

Another market for EF-M are people that do like performance but want a compact camera. The M6 Mark II caters to them. Before that it was the M5 and M6.

Now that RF exists, I don’t see Canon offering mirrorless equivalent EF-M bodies of cameras like the 7D series, though the M6 Mark II definitely shares similarities with the 90D, which is on the enthusiast side.

The main market I’d like to see them explore more with EF-M is the solo or small team video content creators such as myself (haha, yeah, I’m looking out for myself with this one). Sony has started catering to this market with the ZV-1, A7c, and now there is a rumored APS-C camera with a similar design to the ZV-1. I wouldn’t say Sony has done an amazing job on those two designs, but they are definitely a refreshing change. Canon’s standard LCD touch interface is a large improvement compared to what the ZV-1 has, so they’d definitely be able to improve on the new format from the start.

What features would Canon need to add or modify to fit this market well?

  • Remove the artificial 30 minute per video clip limiter. It’s a frustrating limitation for many video creators. A video I make could end up 15 minutes long, but the source recording could be an hour. Sure, you can use an external recorder if the camera supports clean hdmi output, but that’s an entirely different and complex addition to the process that shouldn’t be necessary. 
  • Make sure to offer firmware based features like visible audio levels on screen before and especially while recording. They could also consider offering even more video focused settings or info displays.
  • Make a distinct separation of photography and videography mode. This is usually best handled with a toggle switch. Settings for video and photo should both be saved separately. Better yet, there should be a few custom setting save modes for each task. They could also benefit from specialty video autofocus settings like Sony’s “product showcase” mode.
  • The camera should avoid cropping the video output as much as possible. The M50 suffers from this in 4k mode. It’s probably all due to the old 24mp sensor.
  • Microphone port with a headphone jack. Though I don’t have a personal need for that headphone jack, it’s started becoming one of those standard features on cameras that take video more seriously.
  • Stabilization that’s good enough for vlogging and other situations where the camera is hand-held.
  • The addition of mechanical stabilization in the sensor would definitely be nice. Though cameras like GoPro Hero series and the Osmo Action have figured out how to do digital stabilization really well. Unless Canon somehow shoves in an oversized sensor, I don’t expect much from digital stabilization with EF-M cameras. 
  • The LCD screen needs to have the ability to face the lens. Either fully articulating or flip up and forward as long as the hot-shoe accessory port doesn’t conflict with the screen.
  • Some videographers really like having an EVF, but I personally wouldn’t say it is a necessary feature. They can offer an optional EVF like they do with the M6 Mark II.

We know that Canon has the newer 32.5 effective megapixel APS-C sensor and the old 24mp one. They also have the C70 cinema camera sensor that’s 9.6 mp, but I couldn’t see that working well from a marketing standpoint. It also would not be great for the photography side. Video functionality is often highly dependent on the sensor’s pixel count and read-out speed. The 32.5 mp sensor seems to be pretty good there, but reviews of the M6 Mark II call its 4k “soft”. The 90D has a higher quality 4k mode not in the M6ii, but I’m assuming that there is a processing limitation attached to it. Maybe future EF-M cameras with better processors could handle it.

I’d like to see the standard consumer versions of EF-M cameras continue. Having three models as they do now seems reasonable. In addition to that I’d like to see two models focused on video. One on the low end and another on the high-end. The split between those two would likely be in ergonomics, firmware features, and maybe a feature like sensor based shake reduction (IBIS). 

Here are the camera bodies I’d suggest in an attempt to bring EF-M forward:

  • M200ii, the cheapest and smallest camera of the system. 
  • M50iii, stripped down M5ii camera. Continue the success of the M50 style. 
  • M5ii, basically the successor of the M6 Mark II but transitioned back to the M5 design with its built-in viewfinder. I’d also like to see IBIS, an autofocus selector nub, and a second card slot… Ahh, yeah, wishful thinking unless Canon wants to be more competitive compared to top-end Sony and Fujifilm APS-C bodies.
  • MV50, no EVF video focused version of the M50iii. Also, no built-in camera flash.
  • MV5, no EVF video focused version of the M5ii. Also, no built-in camera flash.

I’d like to think all of these cameras would be based on the 32.5 mp sensor unless there is another one in the pipeline. The old 24mp sensor has been bled dry. It’s barely competitive now as it is on the M50 Mark II. 

I don’t know how much money Canon saves on the LP-E12 compared to LP-E17 batteries, but the split of batteries is a major PITA for EF-M users with multiple cameras in the range. I’d rather see all EF-M cameras use one and offer a revised, yet fully compatible, version of that same battery with more capacity that comes included in the more expensive bodies. Similar to what Nikon does with their EN-EL15c battery (2280 mAh compared to 1900 mAh of previous versions). 

Offer more lenses in the EF-M system that will work especially well in video. Their EF-M STM lenses already work nicely with video autofocus, but I’d like to see at least one or two additional wide angle lenses of 10 to 15mm with optical IS, preferably with a decently large maximum aperture. Their EF-M macro lens is an f/3.5. Maybe a f/3.2 zoom or a f/2.8 prime? It doesn’t need to be f/1.4 like the Sigma 16mm. I’d rather it have optical stabilization. My ideal lens would probably be a 12mm f/2 IS with low focus breathing. The EF-M system could also use a decent larger aperture telephoto lens or two. 

To summarize, here are the video focused cameras I’d like to see.

 Common features of the MV5 and MV50:

  • No artificial limit to video clip recordings. The Sony cameras have some type of natural time limit per clip of nearly 10 hours maybe? Can’t recall. I think 5 hours or more would be fine…
  • Audio levels displayed before and while recording.
  • A large physical video record button.
  • Maybe a screen lock toggle button to turn the LCD’s touch functionality on and off.
  • Fully articulating screen (though in some situations flip up and forward is good as well… I’d take either).
  • Decently high bitrate modes. Higher color depth above 8-bit would be nice if it’s feasible)
  • A quality built-in microphone array with included wind screen like the Sony ZV-1.

Features on the higher-end video focused camera:

  • Sensor based stabilization that can work in combination with lens IS and digital IS. Focused on video work or at least have a setting to have it work well in video mode.
  • Headphone port
  • Custom settings save modes with a physical dial (though I’d hope the cheaper modes had some type of custom modes)
  • At least a mini sized HDMI port.
  • Dual memory card slots (needs to be able to make a duplicate of videos to the second card)

Unrealistic? Definitely. I like the system for hybrid creator work and I do want to see it continue. I hope you found it entertaining!